One thing I love about living in another country is that it helps me look at familiar things in a new way. This weekend I was sitting around a table that was half full of Americans and half full of Japanese people. Dessert rolled around, and we had a delicious chocolate pie/cake sort of thing. As I watched people eat, I remembered something that I learned the first time I was in Japan. Let’s do a quick check here… imagine that you are handed a piece of pie. Which direction does the longest end of the triangle face when you eat it? Chances are that if you are American, the tip of the triangle is pointed directly at you. Right? Why do you do that? Have you ever even thought about it before? If you are Japanese, on the other hand, the tip of your pie is probably going to point to the right or the left. Why? Where did they learn that? Well, this weekend one Japanese friend explained that she thought it was “too aggressive” with the tip pointed at herself. Now I don’t know if that’s the real reason or not; for that matter, I don’t really know why Americans have the tip pointed at themselves either, but that’s just the way that it’s always been done. I don’t remember anyone sitting me down as a child, explaining how to eat my pie, but yet somehow I figured out the American way.
One other part of this weekend especially stands out to me. We focused on studying Jesus’s “I am…” statements from the Bible. One such statement was from John 6 when Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Now, I’ve heard that passage dozens of times and never really thought twice about it until this weekend. Matthew, one of the other Tokyo missionaries, explained it in a way that really connected with me and the intended audience. He paraphrased Jesus’s words and said, “I am the RICE of life.” Wow! In a culture where rice is served at pretty much every meal, now I really understand just how important Jesus is. Jesus is our sustenance and life-giving force. It makes so much sense!